Historic site in H’burg now open to tourists

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High on the hills of Haenertsburg is the site where the last of the heavy and unwieldy long Toms from the Anglo Boer War were destroyed.

HAENERTSBURG –  Three kilometres off the Cheerio road, past Wegraakbosch, is the Rondebult site that locals call Top Camp. There local historian, Professor Louis Changuion, erected two small stone memorials. The wide but not very deep crater, caused by the explosion, is also still there.

On the Cheerio road, turn right to the site where the last long Tom was destroyed.

Recently farmers in the area, in conjunction with Haenertsburg Rotary, created a picnic spot with concrete seating and concrete benches for tourists to enjoy. Acacias and azaleas have been planted and an area has been levelled for parking. Professor Changuion said that he is still working on putting up an historic sign regarding the day Gustav Thiel destroyed the long Tom. The site overlooks the village with the imposing Iron Crown Mountain in the background.

One of two memorials at the site depicting the history, with the crater clearly visible in the background.

In his book Silence of the Guns, Changuion explains the antiquity of the long Toms and their importance in the Boer War. In May 1897, four guns transported by train were delivered in Pretoria. In October 1899, war between two Boer republics and England broke out. During October 1900, the Transvaal Volksraad, with their weapons reached Haenertsburg, a stopover before their journey to Pietersburg (now Polokwane).

A coloured pencil work depicting the long Tom memorial at the arboretum in the village. The view through the barrel is directed toward Rondebult.

The British seized Pietersburg on 8 April 1901. General Beyers decided not to defend and withdrew to Houtboschberg with the last remaining long Tom. The other long Toms were destroyed, once the ammunition had been expended, to prevent them from falling into British hands. Just before the British took over Haenertsburg the Boers destroyed the last long Tom at Rondebult on 30 April 1901.

Changuion erected the long Tom memorial in the village arboretum and spent countless hours searching for long Tom pieces at Rondebult and in the storeroom of a British museum. The long Tom was painstakingly recreated at the arboretum as pieces became available. The long Tom was placed in a strategic position in the arboretum. Looking down the barrel of the long Tom the view is directly towards Rondebult where the new tourist site has been created.

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